President Hugo Chavez of oil-rich Venezuela visits China this week to buy tankers and seal an oil exploration deal amid a rapid increase in energy sales to fuel China's booming economy.
Chavez was due to arrive in Beijing today on a trip that will also take him to Angola and Malaysia.
Chavez has forged strong ties with Beijing since taking office in 1998. Venezuela has boosted sales to China, which is looking to Latin America for new energy sources.
Venezuela, the world's No. 5 oil exporter, sells 150,000 barrels of crude, fuel oil and other petroleum products a day to China, and says it plans to increase that to 200,000 this year.
"We're going to sign a contract to buy some oil tankers, some supertankers, because we're going to have our own oil fleet," Chavez said last week in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.
Chavez said that buying tankers would prevent his enemies "from sabotaging us the way they sabotaged us when the [US] empire wanted to overthrow the government" in a 2002-2003 strike led by the opposition that nearly paralyzed Venezuela's oil exports.
Chavez said that China would cooperate with Venezuela's state oil company on an oil project in the Orinoco River basin.